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Why Booking Fees are Important for your Salon

It would be safe to assume that if you are reading this, you have had a client not show up to their appointment or had a client cancel or reschedule their appointment 10min before they are due to show up. It is beyond frustrating when this happens. Not only can it affect you mentally but also financially. If you rely on your salon as one of your main sources of income, then a single appointment that didn’t show up or cancelled last minute or rescheduled last minute, could be the difference between you putting food on the table that night or putting fuel in the car so you can go to work or buying nappies for your child. 

It is extremely important that you protect your business and your income from this happening. 

Luckily, Booking Fees are not something that have just appeared. They have been around for many many may years and have been used in the Hotel Industry and Airline Industry. And recently, they have been adopted by the Hair and Beauty Industry.


Why do I need to charge my clients a Booking Fee

Let’s face it, if your client does not show up, then you do not get paid. If your client does not show up, the electricity company doesn’t say, “Hey, your client didn’t show up, don’t worry about paying us for the electricity you have used during that time.” Hell no, they expect you to pay them no matter what happens. The problem is, it is not just the electricity company that still wants to be paid. Your bank still has to be paid. Your rent still has to be paid. Your stockist still have to be paid. Your staff still have to be paid. The list is endless. Just because your client cancels or reschedules or does not show up, does not mean that all of these things, and many more, do not have to be paid. 

For example, if you were offering Lash Extensions at $100 for 2 hours and you have 3 clients cancel, reschedule or no show to their appointments, in a week, not only do you miss out on $300 in that week, you are sitting around doing nothing for 6 hours, missing out on the appointments that you have turned away, missing out on that much needed break or spending that extra quality time with the kids.

By implementing a Booking Fee Policy, you are demonstrating to your clients that you are a business to be taken seriously, that you value your time and you value your client’s time.

There are at least 2 different ways that you can implement Booking Fees into your salon. Both of these have their pros and cons. The first is by saving the clients card on file and the second is by asking for the booking fee up front.

No matter which direction you decide to implement into your business, there are booking systems out there that allow for this. We recommend and suggest to use Timely. We have been using Timely for the last 7 years and believe it is one of the absolute best Online Booking Systems that you can use.

Saving Card On File Method

This is a very popular option of late. In this option, you set your Online Booking System to save the clients card on file at the time they make their booking with you. If the client does not show up or cancels or reschedules last minute, you go into your Online Booking System and charge the card that is saved on file. 

This is a really great option if:

  • you want to keep things streamlined and all within a single online booking system.
  • don’t want the hassle of asking for booking fees every time you see the client.
  • do not want to hold money (“credit”) on behalf of the client.
  • Faster checkout process without the need of an Eftpos machine.

Now for some of the downsides.

  • The client may be able to remove their saved card directly after they have made their appointment (depending on where you live in the world and your booking system)
  • The saved card may not have any money on it.
  • The saved card may expire after it is saved.
  • Clients tend to question “random” charges if you charge them after the fact.
  • Clients tend to be grumpier when charging after the fact and become a little more argumentative.
  • The client has not invested in the treatment yet.

Booking Fees Up Front

The booking Fee up front policy is the one that we personally use. We have found this to work best for our salon. In this method, when your client is booking online, they are asked for a percentage of the full treatment price or a fixed price prior to the booking being able to be made. Basically you are telling your client that they need to invest in the booking prior to being able to make the booking. 

As for the Downsides:

  • You may scare off some clients before they book because they are not prepared to pay a fee before the getting their treatment. 
  • Depending on how your business is set up, it may cause more “behind the scenes” work.
  • You need to decide on a fee amount that covers your time for each treatment or make a generalized fee regardless of the treatment.
  • You may need another online payment gateway to take payments through phone or on Facebook/Instagram/TikTok etc.

Now for the positives of paying upfront:

  • The client is now held responsible if they do not show up, cancel or reschedule last minute.
  • You know that you will be paid regardless of whether your client shows up.
  • You have already been part paid.
  • You will not be spending more time and money chasing failed card payments or missing card details.
  • You are being completely upfront and honest with your clients BEFORE they make their booking.

As you can see, there are a number of pros and cons for both methods. Again, we prefer the Booking Fee Up Front Method, purely because we are not spending more time and money chasing payments for no shows and it makes our clients responsible straight from the minute they book in.

So my question for you is…….why are you not already charging a Booking Fee? Do you believe that you are too small of a business? Are you saying to yourself that “no clients have cancelled or no showed on me, so it wont happen to me?” Do you think that it ill scare too many clients away?

Let me break your train of thought right there. If you are in business, the first thing that you need to understand, is that you need to protect you and your business. By implementing a Booking Fee Policy, you are protecting your income and protecting your business.

As for the size of your business, that is bullshit. No one starts a business to stay stagnant. You started a business to make money and to make even more money. You may not be large now but this is the perfect time to implement your policies so that when your business does grow (and it will) you are covering all of your bases. The one thing we always said from the start was “Start how you mean to go one”

If you lose clients because of having a Booking Fee Policy in place, then they are not the clients for you. They are the clients that are not prepared to invest in you and your business because they know, whether consciously or subconsciously, they will flake out on you. You do not want someone in your business that does not want to respect your time or your policies.

And lastly, just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it wont. In fact, I promise you that it will. And when it does, you will kick yourself. Your clients have lives outside of visiting your business and sometimes shit goes wrong in their lives and they will need to cancel their appointment or they will forget about their appointment. It happens and it will happen. My question to you is……how are you going to protect your business when this happens to you? What do you currently have in place to stop this from happening?

Having a Booking Fee Policy in place is one of the best things that you can add to your business. It is not about if it will happen to you but when. It happens to every single salon that we have worked with. It does not happen just once, it happens multiple times a week.

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